Struggling with indwelling sin? Feel like it is dragging you down? Consider the fact that God may have a purpose for your struggles. Here’s an example from Joshua.

We are familiar with Joshua’s conquests in the promised land. God had given Israel the land to inhabit. Additionally, God called them to drive out groups of people occupying the land at the time.

However, not all of the peoples were driven out. This is due to Israel’s disobedience in not completing the conquest (Judges 1:27-36, 2:1-5). But that’s not all there is to the story. At the same time Israel failed to complete the conquest, God turned Israel’s disobedience to discipline for their good.

In Judges 3:1-4, the Bible explains:

 Now these are the nations that the LORD left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before. These are the nations: the five lords of the Philistines and all the Canaanites and the Sidonians and the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal-hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.

Did you notice that the Bible says “the LORD left” the nations in the promised land? Instead of saying “Israel failed to remove them,” the Bible highlights God’s total control and rule over the situation. The LORD could have removed the people even in the midst of Israel’s disobedience. However, he didn’t. Why? The Bible explains: “It was online in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war…. For the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the LORD.”

In other words, God used Israel’s disobedience and turned it into a tool for sanctification. In leaving the nations in the midst of the promised land, God was giving Israel training opportunities in which they would be required to stay sharp and ready for battle. Even more, it would test, or stretch, them to pay attention to obedience.

I can’t begin to understand sovereignty of God. However, we can infer a few important principles from this episode in Israel’s history:

  • God disciplines his people for disobedience.
  • Discipline is not the same as punishment (ie. Israel was still God’s people).
  • God is not the author of nor responsible for sin.
  • God is powerful enough to use our sinful past and use it for a sanctified future.

The promised land belonged to Israel. God had promised it to them and given it to them. Yet, even though they owned the land, they didn’t completely possess all of it.

It reminds me of our life in Christ. Although we have total victory over sin, there are still pockets of indwelling sin that we struggle with. Make no mistake, God hates that sin and is not glorified in it. However, He has a design and purpose to use it for your good and His glory. Namely, God wants to use your struggles with sin to keep you ready for spiritual battle and draw you to a greater dependency and commitment upon Him. He could easily remove all of your struggles with sin and temptation. But He chooses not to for a reason.

What will you do? Will you turn to the sin or turn completely to Christ?